four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
49-Nov-Dec-2010
By: 
Nevada Barr
user_rating: 
0

An Anna Pigeon Novel

A-BurnNevada Barr's popular mystery series featuring National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon continues in this 16th installment. In her latest adventure, Anna, still recovering from the harrowing events of Winter Study ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2008) and Borderline (2009), trades in her customary forests and mountains for the exotically urban Crescent City.

The Story: Anna, feeling her age and seriously considering a career change, is visiting friend and fellow park ranger Geneva Akers in New Orleans when she begins to suspect that one of Geneva's boarders, a young "gutter punk" named Jordan, is a pedophile. Meanwhile, Seattle actress Claire Sullivan is on the run from the law, accused of setting the fire that killed her husband and two young daughters. Armed with evidence that her children may still be alive and ensnared in a child prostitution ring, she races across the country to find them. When her desperate search sends her careening into Anna's own quiet investigation, Anna learns just how wild civilization can be.
Minotaur. 384 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780312614560

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Anna Pigeon remains an irresistible protagonist; but, to Barr's credit, Claire Sullivan is her finest fictional creation since Anna, and a credible foil for Ranger Pigeon. Few writers get undeniably better as they head into the second (or possibly third) act of their career, but Burn--a dark work of crime fiction and mystery--finds Nevada Barr turning out prose that practically sizzles." Dorman T. Shindler

Madison County Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"What [Anna and Claire] uncover in the hidden recesses of post-Katrina New Orleans will make your stomach turn. Burn smolders in southern decadence, sinister street gangs, murderous perverts and lots of dogs." JC Patterson

NO Times-Picayune 4 of 5 Stars
"Barr's considerable plotting skill is at its finest in Burn. ... And her insight into human nature--especially in Anna's relationship with her newish husband and in Clare's uncanny acting ability--gives the story appealing depth." Diana Pinckley

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Creepy crimes and black magic weave through Barr's suspenseful plotting." Peggy McMullen

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Barr, who lives in New Orleans, vividly leads Anna on an insider's tour, from voodoo shops, to strip clubs to a brothel. Yet Barr doesn't forget the French Quarter, the ‘Crescent City's somnolent hum' and the neighborhoods being rebuilt post-Katrina. ... Burn reaffirms Barr as one of crime fiction's most insightful novelists." Oline H. Cogdill

Charlotte Observer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"I kept reading because Barr had created such a magnetic story, but I wanted to put the book down and walk away because the daughters have been stolen for the child sex trade, and Barr does not stint on details of that abhorrent industry. There's a fine line between the level of disclosure calculated to stir outrage and just plain prurient detail." Salem Macknee

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Although she travels the pedestrian tourist route in New Orleans and makes little effort to capture the rhythms and inflections of regional speech, Barr doesn't judge the locals by the colorful personalities they wear like carnival masks. ... And her portrayal of Clare Sullivan, wanted on four counts of murder for killing her husband, their two children and his mistress and burning down the family home in Seattle, is as complex as it is sympathetic." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

With its focus on pedophilia and human trafficking, Burn is Barr's darkest and creepiest mystery yet. Although some critics were disturbed by its subject matter, most were thrilled by Barr's crackling prose, pulsating action, and authentic characters. While praising the riveting and increasingly complex park ranger, they also hailed Claire as Barr's finest creation, as multifaceted and genuine as she is sympathetic. Barr even manages to work in some insightful reflections on marriage, identity, and aging. Although critics diverged in their opinions of Barr's rendering of the Big Easy--"an insider's tour" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) versus a "pedestrian tourist route" (New York Times Book Review)--all were fascinated watching Anna maneuver through a wilderness of a different sort.

First in the Series

Track of the Cat (1993): After the sudden death of her husband, Anna leaves New York City for the remote backcountry woods of West Texas and a job as a park ranger, but her attempt to start over is ominously threatened when a fellow ranger mysteriously dies.